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dacker
little black dots



Joined: 27 Sep 2006
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Location: the end of my rope
dacker
little black dots
PostTue Oct 03, 2006 10:58 am 
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Sperry Peak – 6140’

Date:   September 30, 2006
Team:   Taehee and Rick

This is my first TR on this board, so bear with me if it's a bit rough.

I have seen several TRs for Vesper Peak, but Sperry hasn't gotten as much attention. It is a fine scramble and not as hard as it looks from the lake, so I'm going to give it a little press here. It is a very worthy objective.

Sperry Peak is a prominent spire located along the Mountain Loop Highway a few miles west of Barlow Pass. Its NE face, visible from Mt. Dickerman, has an impressively precipitous appearance from that vantage point. There is no easy hiking trail to its summit, but there is a class 2-3 scramble route on the SW side, from Vesper Lake.

The approach to Sperry is the same as for the much more popular Vesper Peak: via the Sunrise Mine Trail and Headlee Pass. We arrived at the trailhead about 7:30, expecting to be the first ones there, but we discovered three cars already in the parking area. Most guidebooks list the trailhead elevation at 2100’, but matching where we were with the USGS topo map looked  more like 2400’. We loaded up and hit the trail at 7:40.
A look at Sperry Peak from lower Wirtz Basin, before the fog rolled in.
A look at Sperry Peak from lower Wirtz Basin, before the fog rolled in.

Guidebooks and other TRs describe the trail as a root-fest and it is indeed that, but not as difficult to follow as some TRs have indicated. We had also heard horror stories about the Stillaguamish River crossing and were relieved to find the water very low and the crossing no more difficult than a typical creek crossing. From there, the trail works its way up and around the north ridge of Morning Star Peak into Wirtz Basin. Much of this section was wet with encroaching dew-laden brush, but not at all hard to follow. Higher in the basin, however, the trail moves into a talus field, fog rolled in, and we managed to lose it among the rocks and fog. Consulting the map and taking a compass bearing, we decided we were too far to hiker’s right and eventually traversed our way back to the trail. From there we easily followed it up the steep gulley to Headlee Pass, ~4600’.
After the fog rolled in, a look back down from the upper trail to Headlee Pass with Dickerman and Twin Peaks beyond..
After the fog rolled in, a look back down from the upper trail to Headlee Pass with Dickerman and Twin Peaks beyond..
Looking up towards the pass from the same spot.
Looking up towards the pass from the same spot.

After crossing the pass, the trail drops down a bit and traverses across another talus field, but this time we managed to stay on it with no problems. A short ways later we arrived at picturesque Vesper Lake, tucked in a small basin between Sperry and Vesper Peaks, and now totally ice-free. The only other people we encountered here were a couple of young men heading up Vesper.
After dropping over Headlee Pass, the trail traverses this talus slope into the small notch visible in the center. Vesper Lake is a short distance beyond.
After dropping over Headlee Pass, the trail traverses this talus slope into the small notch visible in the center. Vesper Lake is a short distance beyond.

Our plan was to climb Sperry and if time, energy, and weather permitted, add on the traverse to Vesper. So we did a gently rising traverse around the east shore of the lake to the base of the slabs coming off Sperry’s SW slopes. The standard route continues to the north shore of the lake and climbs to the Sperry-Vesper saddle, from where it follows the ridge to Sperry’s summit, but we opted to scramble up the slabs and intersect the ridge higher up and closer to the summit. We found a likely line that could be done safely without roping up and soon found ourselves on the upper ridge, where we encountered the infamous trees. Other TRs have told about climbing this section using tree branches for handholds, or “veggie belays,” and we did likewise. We topped out on Sperry’s summit at exactly 12 noon, 4:20 from the car.
Our route up Sperry was to scramble the slabby SW slopes to gain the upper NW ridge and then climb the ridge to the summit.
Our route up Sperry was to scramble the slabby SW slopes to gain the upper NW ridge and then climb the ridge to the summit.
From the upper NW ridge, this is looking over towards a cloud-veiled Vesper Peak along the connecting ridge.
From the upper NW ridge, this is looking over towards a cloud-veiled Vesper Peak along the connecting ridge.
Taehee has just topped out on a short chimney, a couple of minutes from the summit.
Taehee has just topped out on a short chimney, a couple of minutes from the summit.
Seen from Sperry, Big Four presents a different profile from its usual Dickerman pose.
Seen from Sperry, Big Four presents a different profile from its usual Dickerman pose.
Rick trying not to get blown off Sperry's high point.
Rick trying not to get blown off Sperry's high point.
This is a view down to the lake, between patches of fog rolling through.
This is a view down to the lake, between patches of fog rolling through.

Although our energy level was fine, the other two factors--time and weather--were more concerning, so we made the decision to stick with one peak and not try for the traverse. We settled down to eat our lunch and enjoy the summit. The wind was quite strong from the west, but in the lee of some rocks it was very comfortable. Clouds were blowing in and out and creating constantly changing views of the surrounding peaks.
Lewis Peak pokes above the fog, with the N ridge of Morning Star in the foreground, from Sperry's summit.
Lewis Peak pokes above the fog, with the N ridge of Morning Star in the foreground, from Sperry's summit.
Just right of the previous photo, Morning Star Peak is in the foreground, with Del Campo and Gothic peeking out of the fog beyond, from Sperry's summit.
Just right of the previous photo, Morning Star Peak is in the foreground, with Del Campo and Gothic peeking out of the fog beyond, from Sperry's summit.

A group of 3 climbers from WAC eventually joined us shortly before we headed down. Their plan was to go for the traverse, but as it turned out, two of them followed us down and only one of them went for the traverse solo. The others waited for him at the lake, in contact with him by 2-way radio.

The scramble back down to the lake was mostly uneventful. We did not downclimb our route up the slabs, but took the usual route down from the saddle. The hike out went quickly and we arrived back at the car at 3:40.
Our ascent route was too steep to downclimb, so to return to the lake, we went to the Sperry-Vesper saddle and followed the class 2 route down from there.
Our ascent route was too steep to downclimb, so to return to the lake, we went to the Sperry-Vesper saddle and followed the class 2 route down from there.

Sperry is a great late-season scramble. The route was entirely snow-free, except for a few patches in the lake basin which were easily bypassed, and the fall color was beginning to really kick in. No technical gear is needed, although helmets are advisable above the lake and trekking poles are very helpful on the steep trail. The rocky summit has room for quite a few people and the views are spectacular.

--------------
We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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Tazz
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 1:38 pm 
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thanks for the reportand pics!   I need to get in this area sometime.
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jimmymac
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 4:14 pm 
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Dacker wrote:


This is my first TR on this board, so bear with me if it's a bit rough.

Rough?
The only rough part is seeing a such a fine, textbook example of a TR
and comparing it to some of mine.  up.gif

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"The first time I display the slightest hint of hyperbole, you should just blow me away and burn my corpse at the end of a logging road."
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Dayhike Mike
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 4:28 pm 
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Nice TR, Dacker...

Thanks for posting it and all the gorgeous pics!

--------------
"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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Spotly
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 4:40 pm 
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Title with date, good details, great pics. Didn't see anything "rough" there. Sounds like an excellent scramble other than the root thing - makes us stronger I guess smile.gif

Thanks for the TR
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Sabahsboy
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 5:47 pm 
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Thank you Dacker and Taehee for an exciting TR.

I never gave a thought to Sperry.  Went up Vesper many times.

Your luck had it that clouds gave you terrific vistas with peaks looming out of the swirling white.  Great photos!

Friday, I took a day and headed to  PCT.  Had no problem with fog/clouds, though there was some early before we reached the TH.  My fall-back hike was Cutthroat Lakes.  If I had gone to the latter location, I would have spent the day in the clouds.

Look forward to your next endeavor and photos!
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Karen
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 6:32 pm 
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Other than the elevation gain, I found Sperry Peak to be much easier than it looks. I wanted to get back again this year but am running out of time and my calendar is full. My favorite part of the scramble was/is scrambling the slabs above the lake to the ridge between the peaks. It's play!!!

Karen

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stay together, learn the flowers, go light - from Turtle Island, Gary Snyder
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Magellan
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Magellan
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PostTue Oct 03, 2006 7:44 pm 
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I assure you that was an excellent first effort.
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dacker
little black dots



Joined: 27 Sep 2006
Posts: 731 | TRs | Pics
Location: the end of my rope
dacker
little black dots
PostTue Oct 03, 2006 8:26 pm 
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Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the positive feedback. It will encourage me to write some more TRs.  smile.gif

Yes, Karen, Sperry is easier than it looks and I encourage everyone to give it a try. There is a little exposure, as noted, but it is really pretty minimal.

--------------
We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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moosefish
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PostWed Oct 04, 2006 7:54 am 
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Dacker wrote:
From the upper NW ridge, this is looking over towards a cloud-veiled Vesper Peak along the connecting ridge.
From the upper NW ridge, this is looking over towards a cloud-veiled Vesper Peak along the connecting ridge.

Hey! That's me! In the fog. With no views. huh.gif

We were probably lounging at the lake when you headed out. Two guys with no shoes on. (The water was just a little cold.)

From Vesper looking at Sperry:

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dacker
little black dots



Joined: 27 Sep 2006
Posts: 731 | TRs | Pics
Location: the end of my rope
dacker
little black dots
PostWed Oct 04, 2006 8:23 am 
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Hey Moosefish! So those two guys were you. Nice to meet you again!  Thanks for the shot of us on Sperry. biggrin.gif

Yeah, we watched you climbing up the ramp as we were traversing above the lake. The apparently socked-in summit of Vesper was one of the reasons we decided not to go for the traverse.  rolleyes.gif

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We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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dacker
little black dots



Joined: 27 Sep 2006
Posts: 731 | TRs | Pics
Location: the end of my rope
dacker
little black dots
PostWed Oct 04, 2006 9:32 am 
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I just found a TR from the three WAC people we met on the summit. I added a link to it in my TR above as well as the one here. To avoid any confusion if you read it, they misidentified Vesper Lake as Copper Lake. Also turns out that the clouds on Vesper must have parted, as the guy who went there solo said he had good views. Oh, well, we weren't as fast as him and time was also a factor.

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We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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